One of the toughest elements of visiting the set of Tom & Jerry: The Movie is the title stars are a bit… let’s just say ‘unavailable for interview.’
Sure, when we visited the set in summer 2019, we saw plenty of pictures of the pair in a large room dedicated to all the animated characters that appear in the movie, which demonstrated just how dedicated the production team are to matching the style of the original cartoons, but did Tom, or, indeed, Jerry, take the time to come out of their trailers to talk to Yahoo Movies UK? No, they do not. Hell, they don’t even come onto set to shoot – a large grey bean bag takes the place of Tom when it’s time to perform.
Thankfully, the human stars of Tom & Jerry’s first live action outing were a lot more accommodating, with Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Carrie) even coming in on her day off to discuss the movie. It’s a testament to her work ethic, which has already been challenged during the shoot.
“I might have underestimated how much of a physically taxing role it would be, Moretz tells Yahoo Movies UK. “The entire movie, I’m doing things like interacting with the mouse, and the mouse is small and it has a mouse hole, so I’m crawling on my knees and banging my hand on the little mouse door. I guess I underestimated how much physicality there would be, to be traipsing around this hotel, usually in a heel – I’m always in a four-inch heel, which probably isn’t helpful – and a little skirt, it’s funny.”
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Thankfully, Yahoo Movies UK didn’t have to knock on any little mouse doors to get the following intel, but we did get to walk around the set of an impressive Indian wedding, which is the centrepiece of a key scene in the movie.
Here’s the 10 most important things we learned when we were there.
Bob Hoskins was a big influence on Chloë Grace Moretz
“I watched a lot of interviews with Bob Hoskins about the world they created with Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He wasn’t surprised by what the toons were doing, he was annoyed because that’s what they always do. That was something I wanted to implement in this. These animals are cartoon animals in their entire world.
“If you’re eating a fish on a plate, it’s going to be an animated fish on a plate. So it’s not surprising and it’s not shocking, it’s more annoyance, and trying to manipulate them in a way.”
“I gleaned a lot from watching interviews [with Hoskins]. He told an interviewer that he felt a little psychotic afterwards, he was interacting with inanimate objects. I started doing that - apologising to doors - and I thought ‘I’m turning into him!’ I’m going to go to my next movie and try to act opposite nothing!”
Chloë Grace Moretz’s Tom & Jerry character was also influenced by Sex & The City
“I wanted to create a character that was a little bit Sandra Bullock, a little bit Jennifer Aniston in some moments, Lucille Ball has that old-school slapstick physical comedy, large expressions et cetera, and I wanted to have that same Meg Ryan thing.”
“The character is a little unlikeable with some of the decisions she makes in the story, but I wanted her personality to be exciting enough and likeable enough that you don’t question the fact she’s not a great person, she’s a liar for most of the movie.
“I had to counteract that, and make her not evil. She could come off really unlikeable really quickly. It was almost Sarah Jessica Parker, how she made Carrie Bradshaw, which is a hard character, a lot more likeable by being effervescent.”
The movie will have the violence of the original cartoon
“We don’t pull any punches in terms of impact, and hits, and the fact Tom & Jerry really do try to kill one another, and in many cases they probably should have! We wanted to stay true to that in the hope that it’s as funny, or in the spirit of what the original cartoon was,” Story says.
“I love really goofy violence,” star Colin Jost agrees. “I was excited that Tim was talking about making sure it was really violent. Tom & Jerry, Ren & Stimpy, Itchy & Scratchy, they were all very formative cartoon experiences for me, the fun of cartoons is they can be super violent to each other and there aren’t any consequences.”
Tim Story was influenced by silent cinema
“In film school you’re introduced to Charlie Chaplin, and even the Marx Brothers – even though they’re obviously talking, so much of the humour comes from the activities and what they do. I got a lot from the Little Rascals’ physical comedy. There’s others that use that physical comedy today. I even got some stuff from Frasier and shows like that, which use physical comedy. I watched quite a bit of silent stuff, because I know that with these characters I have to bring the humour and communication from silence.”
“If you’re familiar with the cartoons, Tom speaks rarely, they don’t have conversations. In the script, dialogue is written, but any time you see dialogue with Tom & Jerry you have to communicate that with non-verbal action. I’m a purest, just as I would be if I saw a movie where they’re talking, I’d be pissed off.”
The animators are on set every day, which gives the actors freedom to improvise
“There’s a moment when I knock on Jerry’s door, and Jerry comes out and gets into a bit of a tiff with Tom,” Chloë Grace Moretz tells Yahoo Movies UK.
“And I said ‘What if I lift my leg up, and when Jerry and Tom are fighting they go underneath my leg? And I start twirling up, moving my arms, moving in a circle, and screaming…’ They said ‘Go ahead and do it, because if you do that I can make them move under your leg and go around you.’ There’s a freedom I’ve never had before, to do whatever my heart desires.”
Tim Story’s approach to working with actors reminds Chloë Grace Moretz of Tim Burton
“I look at Tim [Story] and I say ‘Have I gone too far, is this too big?’ And he says ‘I don’t think you can go too big with this.’ The only other time I felt that on set was when I worked with Tim Burton on Dark Shadows.”
“I would bring up crazy ideas. I was playing a werewolf, and I wanted to smell people’s intentions, and be able to tell if they were bad people or good people. I wanted to sniff people in the scene, and Tim was ‘110%. There’s nothing you can’t do on this set.’ It’s just awesome, it’s a great feeling.”
Tom might end up going to… Coachella?
“I’m taking a different approach to the music,” Story says. “Tom plays the piano like he did in the originals, but we have to update them and bring them into today. There’s a lot of jazz in the original, big band, we found that we couldn’t depend on just that, because it would date the film too much. So we had things like… Tom might be at Coachella.”
“Although I’m doing a little bit of orchestral, and there’ll be a big band vibe to it, I’m also using all the other methods of music that are apparent on everyone’s iPhones right now, or whatever you use to listen to music. We’ll see what happens.”
Colin Jost is Spike’s new owner, and he enjoys the responsibility
“I like working with Spike the dog. People who on set are like ‘Woah, you get to hold Spike?’ I liked Tom & Jerry cartoons when I was growing up, but people have a real reverence for this character, I was like ‘Oh wow, I guess I’ve got to take this seriously.’ I have two dogs at home, I really like the idea that you don’t know what it would do, given this entire space, and other cartoon animals running around. That part was fun.”
Colin Jost is hoping to use Tom & Jerry to kick start a career to equal his SNL heroes
“Will Ferrell was a huge hero of mine on SNL, and the movies he made too. The way he did it was really impressive, he was involved in all phases of production for his movies. Adam Sandler did the same thing, his movies were really funny. I saw his movies before I knew his SNL work, in my mind he was the biggest star in the world. I didn’t even realise he’d left SNL and had that whole career before the movies.
Tina Fey too, creating another television show after SNL and also doing film. She had a nice blend of something she created as a writer and a producer, and a couple of things she also did as an actor… at SNL you write and you produce whatever you’re in, so to be here and to be just solving the problem as an actor, it’s like a vacation. It’s so fun to do it with people you trust, it’s such a fun experience.”
Memories of making Kick-Ass helped Chloë Grace Moretz with the physicality of the role
“Doing something like Kick-Ass at a really young age really helped me today, because it gave me a sense of my body, and a sense of my space, and where I am, what different moves are. I was pretending to be an action hero, and that’s something that takes a lot of understanding of how you look, and what your movements look like. Specifically training in martial arts, and with Wushu in particular, there’s so much finesse to what you’re created, and every move is like a dance move, every fight sequence is like a dance sequence, so in that same sense, I was very aware of how my body looks in certain movements that I do onscreen.”
“That helped me on this film. Instead of implementing it to make myself look really cool, and very dangerous, I was trying to make you laugh. I found the more physical comedy I did, it made me feel more confident. This movie gave me that. I was able to implement everything I learned from Wushu and martial arts on Kick-Ass. To be able to do that in a movie like this, it was strangely similar to fight sequences, throwing myself in twirls, and jumping, running around in heels and being silly, playing the joke of the skirt and her being uncomfortable in it, pulling it down.”
“Tonally, there’s differences,” Jost says. “But they’re not so far off. It’s a mixture of violence and fun in [Kick-Ass], hopefully in a similar way to this. Maybe slightly less human violence in this. I’m sure Warner Brothers would like a little less human violence.”
Tom & Jerry will be released in the UK on 19 March, 2021.